My Mother-in-law lives in Florida, and it has become a family tradition to spend the time between Christmas and New Years visiting. They live in an active adult residential community in West Palm Beach. It is a great place to relax. The water table in Florida is very high, so to build the community they build up mounds of earth to construct the houses on, and in the process they create a series of lagoons that are all connected. Their house is build right next to one of these lagoons so fishing is possible from the backyard. This year I did very well fishing, I caught a total of 7 fish. However, even though my wife only caught 1 fish, she caught the biggest by far, so I guess she wins.
There is a lot of wildlife the exists in these lagoons. The fish are large mouth bass for the most part, but there are also sunfish. The lagoons are also full of turtles. There area all sorts of birds too. The coolset bird by far is the osprey, too bad they are hard to find. But the place is full of horrible looking ducks. Everyone seemed to call them "Turkey Ducks", but they are really Muscovy Ducks, they do not fear humans, hence the close up picture.
The Mother-in-law also lives close to Okeeheelee Park which is another great place to relax. We ended up taking our niece there several times. There is kayaking, fishing, trails and even a bmx course. Unfortunately the only activity my wife and I were able to do this year was take a nice walk, we really wanted to go kayaking but it didn't happen.
Another big part of our vacation is eating. Back east the bagels and lox are so much better. We ended up having breakfast from Strathmore bagels many times. We even brought back a dozen bagels. I also had some great ribs while we were out there, and I had Stone Crab for the first time!
Usually we stay in West Palm Beach but this year we were able to say a little longer than usual so we were able to take a day trip down to Miami Beach. The drive wasn't too bad because we took a toll road, the Florida Turnpike. Miami Beach is an island just east of Miami and it is connected via several causeways. We parked near Lincoln Road which is the north end of Miami Beach and it is where the high end shopping is. We then walked along the beach all the way to the southern end up Miami Beach. On our walk we saw a Man o' war (a poisonous sea creature) washed up on the beach.
At the end of our walk we went to Joe's Stone Crab for lunch. Joe's Stone Crab is located at almost the most southern tip of Miami beach, it is probably the first restaurant in the area, opening in 1913. My Grandmother gave me $100 for Christmas and we used it here. It was by far our nicest meal of the trip, the Stone Crab was awesome.
On our way back we did some shopping, and then we grabbed some Starbucks coffee for the ride home. At the Starbucks I was surprised to see a Clover! The Clover is a super high end coffee breweing system where you can very accurately specify temperatures, amount of grounds to use, breweing time, etc... I had heard that Starbucks had purchased the company a while back in Wired, but this is the first time I have seen one of these in a Starbucks. However, my wife and I were lucky enough to experience the Clover at Trabant Coffee in Seattle before Starbucks bought the company. This time we didn't go for it, 7$ for a cup of coffee is too steep, no matter how good it is.
Another first for our trip was visiting a Wetlands Reserve. We went to the Green Cay Nature Center where we saw even more wildilfe, including an alligator. We also disovered that there is a species of turtle named the "Florida Cooter" which we thought was hysterical. This place was gorgeous. There is a giant wooden boardwalk built on top of the wetlands that is at least a mile to walk all the way around. There is also a nature center where they have an exhibit with turtles, frogs, and baby alligators. I have never been to Florida in the summer, but apparently it is absolutely covered with these frogs.
In total we ended up spending 10 days in Florida. It was a great trip. Work is about to pick up because we are going to be releasing the next version of our software pretty soon so it was nice to have a chance to relax and recharge.